Graduate Program Degree Requirements

There are two levels of requirements that apply to every student's program:

  • those imposed by the Graduate School for specific degrees
  • and those specified by the policies of the HDFS graduate program.

Departmental Requirements:

Course Work: Entering students take 3 required 3-credit courses (Life Span Development, Family Studies, and Intervention Research), 4 required 3-credit methods courses in Research Methods and Statistics, and 3-4 credits of a professional development seminar during the first two years. Over time, course work becomes increasingly specialized and tailored to the student's individual interests. Yearly Plans of Study developed in consultation with the student's advisor specify course work and apprenticeship experiences directed at the student's emerging scholarly and career interests. For the Masters, in addition to the required courses, students take 9 credits in their substantive field and 6 credits of thesis research. For the doctorate, in addition to the required courses, students must take a total of 12 credits in their substantive field, 6 methodology elective credits, and 6 credits of thesis research.

Apprenticeship Experiences: Much of a graduate student's training takes place outside the classroom. Apprenticeship activities include working as a research or teaching assistant, completing workshops on teaching techniques, spending a summer on an internship, presenting research at professional meetings, and taking advantage of the many colloquium series, symposia, and conferences held at Penn State every year.

Graduate School Requirements:

Students must take a minimum of 30 credits for the masters. Admission to graduate study is not synonymous with admission to the Doctoral Program; students must also be admitted to candidacy to the Ph.D. by means of the candidacy examination which is conducted by their Candidacy Committee (5 faculty members in HDFS chosen with the approval of the Professor in Charge of the Graduate Program). No specified number of courses or credits is required by the Graduate School for attainment of the Ph.D. Instead, requirements include:

  1. A period of residence (the student must be in residence at the University Park Campus for two consecutive semesters over a 12-month period and be enrolled for full-time academic work; further, the residency period must occur between admission to candidacy and completion of the Ph.D. requirements);
  2. Maintenance of at least a 3.00 grade point average;
  3. Demonstrated competence in the English language (including reading, writing, listening, and speaking);
  4. Demonstrated competence in professional communication skills;
  5. Passing the Comprehensive Examination (written and oral);
  6. Writing a satisfactory dissertation (an independent, competent research and scholarship activity that makes a significant contribution); and
  7. Satisfactory passing of the final oral examination (dissertation defense).